Everyday life came to a surreal standstill in Beijing this week, as thick smog blanketed China's capital.
Schools closed, cars cleared the road during rush hour, and factories powered down after officials called an unprecedented "Red Alert."
The alert, which reportedly remains in effect through Thursday, signals the highest possible pollution levels under China's color-based warning system.
Officials in Beijing said the measures had already cut the city's pollution levels considerably — it dropped 30% over the course of Tuesday alone, according to The New York Times.
By Thursday, U.S. officials downgraded its own air-quality warning to moderate from hazardous, The Times reported.
Even with masks covering their faces, many residents worried about the health impacts of China's chronic pollution. The Red Alert was issued less than a month after an Orange Alert was called
over similarly high levels of smog.
"You have to do whatever you can to protect yourself," Li Huiwen told The Associated Press
. "Even when wearing the mask, I feel uncomfortable and don't have any energy."
Ahead, haunting images of the scary conditions in Beijing and other parts of China this week. All captions provided by The Associated Press, Getty, and Reuters photo services.